Written by Kate Hewitt
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Transparency is key to change. It’s very difficult for businesses to deny that a problem exists when a spotlight is shined on the issue. Unfortunately, when industries have convoluted supply chains with many contributors it becomes difficult to monitor every step. An industry where this is particularly prevalent is apparel.
Apparel workers around the world often face factory conditions that are unsafe and are exploited through poor labour practices. This disproportionately effects women and child labour is common. The use of short term supplier contracts by big global brands adds to the exploitation as it is easier to fire and control workers. These short-term contracts also lead to poor labour inspection and enforcement, this combined with aggressive anti-union tactics make it difficult for workers to assert their rights.
It’s not just garment factory workers that may be effected by irresponsible corporate behaviour. The surrounding communities feel the devastating effects of poor environmental practices due to the lack of basic health and safety leading to pollution of land and waterways. Water use and greenhouse gas emissions also add to the environmental impact of the fashion supply chain.
The organisation “Fashion Revolution” host an annual Fashion Revolution Week to remember the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh where 1,138 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. There were five garment factories in Rana Plaza all manufacturing clothing for big global brands. Their goal is to drive greater transparency in the fashion industry in the hope that this will achieve better working conditions for employees all the way through the garment supply chain and improve environmental practices. Hopefully this will serve to ensure that tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse are not allowed to happen again. Fashion Revolution produce an annual index which ranks 100 of the biggest global fashion brands per their disclosure of social and environmental factors affecting their business. You can find out where different companies rank here.
During the week beginning April 24th Fashion Revolution encourages consumers to question “Who made my clothes?”. Castlefield will be joining in the campaign throughout the week. For more information visit the Fashion Revolution website.